“You were getting along quite fine.” She sipped her drink and glanced at Olive. “This is my best friend, Olive. She’s a doctor at the Nairobi hospital. If you ever need a check-up, she’s the one to call.”
Olive held out her hand to Eric with a dazzling smile. “Nice to meet you and you are?”
“Eric Kabuto, photographer,” he said. “Victoria is supposed to be my date but she keeps leaving me alone.”
Olive chuckled. “Why don’t you join us? Grace told me to keep Vicky up here.”
Eric ordered a beer from the bartender and moved closer to Victoria.
“This is why you should have listened to me. Nagging Grace will just get her irritated with you. Is that why you ran up here?”
“No, I was running away from you,” Victoria answered looking at him. “Did you abandon your job again?”
“You keep forgetting Linda is here with me,” he said thanking the bartender when his beer arrived. “Olive, is it just Olive or should I call you, Dr. Olive?”
“I should make you call me Dr. Olive.”
“What do you call her?” Eric asked nudging Victoria’s shoulder. “I’ll call her the same.”
“Olive, but that’s because we know each other. You’re a stranger.”
“I’m a stranger?” he asked pressing a hand against his chest feigning pain. “After we had such a good time earlier, how can I be a stranger?”
Olive laughed. “Just how close did you two get at the photo shoot?”
“She knows my biggest secret,” Eric said with a serious tone. “I’m amazed that she guessed it so easily too. So you can imagine we’re close.”
Victoria shook her head. “Your secret is so obvious, Eric. I’m surprised no one else knows.”
“Olive doesn’t know.” Eric sipped his beer. “Olive, tell me something I don’t know about Victoria.”
“What would you like to know?” Olive asked. “Me and this chick, we went to college together. I even know her eating habits.”
Eric glanced at Victoria and winked. “What should I ask first?”
“Don’t tell him anything,” Victoria said to Olive.
“Eric, I think I have to turn this against you,” Olive said then. “She’s my best friend. I can’t tell you anything when she tells me not to. Why don’t you tell me about you instead?”
“Ask anything,” he said.
“Do we have some kind of stamp on our foreheads?” he asked with a laugh.
“It’s the way you act,” Olive said. “Comfortable, like nothing scares you anymore.”
“A lot of things scare me,” Eric said with a small smile. “Like Victoria here, when I first saw her, she wouldn’t even crack a smile.”
Olive chuckled. “She has that effect on people when she doesn’t want to talk.”
“Hey, I’m sitting right here,” Victoria complained. “And this is supposed to be about Eric answering questions.”
Olive turned to him with a small grin. “The craziest thing you’ve ever done.”
Eric sipped his beer and answered. “You won’t believe me.”
“What is it?” Victoria asked shifting her chair so that she could see him.
Olive burst out laughing. “That only happens when you provoke the wild animals. What did you do?”
“I needed to pee.” Eric confessed in a matter of fact tone. “My guide stopped the car near a bush and I got out to do my business. The next thing I know, I was running to the car because a huge lioness had appeared and she wanted me for lunch.”
“You could have died, or lost vital equipment you idiot,” Victoria said glaring at him.
“Again with the name calling,” Eric complained.
Olive laughed. “That’s insane and untrue. Tell us another one; something that’s actually happened this time.”
Eric took in the frown on Victoria’s forehead and couldn’t help hoping it was concern. He wanted it to be, because then he’d know she’d at least noticed him. He’d spent the afternoon watching her and decided that she was worth getting to know better. She had this ability to slip in and out of his thoughts. She’d even managed to distract him from Beth and Taylor’s wedding.
Clearing his throat, he turned to Olive.
“My buddies and I took a trip to the Marsabit National Reserve weeks ago to take landscape pictures. The drive there is tough, our car would go for an hour, and a tire would blow. I swear we had fifteen tire punctures. We spent the day taking pictures of the wild, so raw, and untouched. You can imagine our return trip was on four flat tires. We drove fast over rough terrain. The car bounced up and down,” he chuckled just remembering it. “It was exhilarating.”
“Why do you do it?” Victoria asked him. “I mean, you could easily just take a simple assignment. Why travel to such places?”
“Why not?” he asked meeting her gaze. “Those pictures we took in Marsabit were accepted by National Geographic. I shared a part of our country with so many people. Don’t you think it’s worth the trouble?”
“So you do it for patriotism?” Victoria asked with a frown.
“I had a lot of fun with my friends on that road trip. I can show you the pictures if you visit my studio.”
“Where do you live?” Olive asked then.
“I have a half-acre piece of land on Ndwaru Road near Riruta. I’ve been developing the property slowly for the past few years. Every time I get money, I build.”
“Do you build rental houses?” Victoria asked.
“I have a few rental houses,” he said with a small nod, “but also my own house that’s been under construction for what seems like years. I just finished plastering the walls, now I just need to paint.”
“That’s good,” Olive said with a nod. “You at least have something solid. It’s getting hard to buy land anywhere close to Nairobi lately. I’m half-afraid I’m going to rent my whole life.”
“What about you, Victoria?” he asked.
“I rent too,” she said. “I live in Hurlingham; it’s close to town and my job. Although, I’ve been saving money for a project I want to start at home.”
“Home?” Eric asked.
“She’s from Kinoo,” Olive provided finishing her drink. “Her father owns land that he’s going to share between her and her older brother.”
“What kind of project are you planning?” Eric asked signaling the bartender for more drinks. He tugged a high chair between Victoria and Olive and sat down.
“I like to farm,” Victoria declared with a tilt of her chin. “My dad has green houses where he grows different vegetables. I figured I’d start a green house project of my own. I love strawberries, so I want to grow them.”
“She has a few growing in containers on the kitchen veranda at her apartment,” Olive said. “I steal them when I go visit her. I can’t wait until she has a full greenhouse…all those strawberries.”
“The kind of farming you’re talking about requires planning,” Eric said impressed.
“Yes, I have one green house planned so far. I want to get started by next year in February,” Victoria said with a pleased smile. “I’ve talked to a few people in the hotel industry who are ready to buy the fruits. Strawberries have a market as fruit, garnish or for making jellies, so I have a wide market. I just need to make sure that I have the right seed otherwise all my plans fail.”
“You will make it work, don’t worry. Our Victoria was born with a green thumb,” Olive said with pride.
“Unlike you,” Victoria said taking Olive’s hand. “I gave her a small mint plant for her kitchen and found it dried two weeks after I gave it to her.”
“I’m never at home,” Olive said with a sigh. “I did try to look after it when I could.”
Olive’s phone buzzed and she reached for it with a frown. One glance at the caller ID and she shook her head. “I have to go. This is the story of my life, just when I’m starting to have fun.”
“Another patient?” Victoria asked with a frown.
“No, same one from the other day,” Olive said as she got up. “Eric, can I leave my friend in your care? I was going to give her a ride home later.”
“I can do that,” he said quickly. “Don’t worry.”
“Thank you,” Olive said turning to Victoria. “Thanks for the drinks, my dear. Call me tomorrow.”
Victoria accepted a short hug from Olive before she left. Eric returned his chair back to its place and took Olive’s seat.
To be continued….Thank you for reading! ~_~